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Syracuse Crunch Notebook: Team rolls on through the holidays

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

After completing a two-game weekend sweep in the form of back-to-back shutouts, the Syracuse Crunch find themselves in a favorable position heading into the holidays, as the club sits in first place atop the Eastern Conference with 37 points.

The Crunch suffered consecutive losses, albeit one in a shootout, on December 8 and 9, respectively, but bounced back this past weekend to defeat Adirondack 3-0 on Friday night in the first contest of the two-game set, only to follow it up with a 4-0 victory against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton one night later.

Syracuse’s 37 points reflect a 17-6-1-2 record, with its point total also serving as an AHL-best in the 30-team league. The Crunch currently hold a five-point cushion in the East Division over the Binghamton Senators, and look to keep their three-game win streak alive this weekend as they prepare for a rematch against Adirondack and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

The Goal Standard: Along with their league-best 37 points, the Crunch also post an AHL-best 95 goals for on the year, which accounts for four more than the next closest team, the Rockford IceHogs, who have 91. Syracuse has also scored three or more goals in each contest throughout its current three-game winning streak.

Protecting The Lead: Following this past Saturday’s 4-0 whitewash of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Crunch improved to a league-best 15-0-1-0 when leading opponents after two periods.

He’s Going Streaking: Crunch forward Alex Killorn is currently riding a four-game goal scoring streak, which is the longest active streak in the AHL, while also matching teammate Richard Panik for the longest by any Crunch player this season. Killorn, a former Harvard graduate, had a goal in each of the two games this past weekend to spark Syracuse as it reeled off consecutive victories.

Dustin’ Away Opponents: Syracuse netminder Dustin Tokarski has won nine of his previous 11 games between the pipes, including one this past weekend on Saturday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Tokarski, overall on the year, ranks ninth in the AHL in goals-against average with a mark of 2.33 to go along with a .907 save percentage and a 10-4-2 record.

On The Plus Side: Syracuse has the top three plus/minus performers in the AHL this season, including Dmitry Korobov (+18), Ondrej Palat (+17) and Radko Gudas (+15). Also in the top 10 are AHL goal-scoring leader Tyler Johnson (+14) and Richard Panik (+13).

Shutout City: Three combined shutouts this season between Riku Helenius (2) and Dustin Tokarski (1) eclipse Syracuse's total from all of last season after Iiro Tarkki had the only two shutouts for the Crunch in 2011-12. Helenius' two shutouts this season double his AHL career total after his only other shutout came with Norfolk in 2008-09. Tokarski, meanwhile, recorded his first shutout on Saturday since last season’s playoffs when he bested the Toronto Marlies 1-0. He now has 16 total shutouts for his AHL career.

The Week Ahead: Syracuse meets Adirondack for the third time in two weeks and for the sixth time overall this season on Friday at the Oncenter War Memorial Arena. Syracuse has points in all five previous meetings (3-0-1-1), earning a measure of revenge Saturday in a 3-0 win at Adirondack six days after a 4-3 shootout loss in Glens Falls. Adirondack's Brayden Schenn leads all scorers in the five meetings with nine of his 26 points coming against the Crunch.

Syracuse caps a three-game homestand with its second matchup against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in as many Saturdays. The season series between Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is even at two games apiece. Former Crunch forward Riley Holzapfel has four points (2g, 2a) against his old team, pacing the Penguins. Rookie Beau Bennett leads the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in scoring overall with 21 points (5g, 16a) and has two goals and one assist against the Crunch. The Penguins have the third best penalty kill in the AHL at 87.2 percent, first in the league on the road at 90.3 percent.

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